Brexit: EU adviser talks about ‘damaging’ the single market
Mark Littlewood, CEO of the Institute for the Economic Affairs think tank, said the EU instead needed to accept and even embrace the prospect of competition on its doorstep – stressing it was time for the bloc to be “put to the test”. Mr Littlewood was speaking at a time when the prospect of a trade deal hangs in the balance, with EU requirements for so-called “level playing field” rules aimed at safeguarding the integrity of the single market is central to the debate.
Mr Littlewood told Express.co.uk: “The single market doesn’t really seem to be about competition any more – it seems to be about uniformity.
“The important thing is to keep out absolutely everything which does not exactly accord with every last comma of EU regulations.
“Now the EU is entirely entitled to have its own regulations but they seem to want to exclude products and services into their market for their citizens which are identikit versions of the EU-regulated products.
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It speaks of a lack of confidence and even cowardice
“And that to my mind does not speak of confidence, it speaks of a lack of confidence and even cowardice”.
Mr Littlewood added: “When the UK has opened itself up to the world in terms of global trade, obviously there will be standards imposed.
“But we have to accept into our markets products that are not regulated in exactly the same way and on the same basis as UK products.
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“American products that come to our market are not regulated by UK agencies.”
After Brexit, the UK would be able to adopt a more flexible approach, by accepting the fact that a product had been signed off by for example a US, or a German, or an EU agency, it was good enough for the domestic market, Mr Littlewood suggested.
He added: “And I think the EU should take the same view.
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“However, unfortunately the single market over the last couple of decades has moved away from being something that removes barriers to trade and has moved on to insisting that absolutely all participants must behave in exactly the same way and under the exactly the same regulations and the same policing requirements.
“And it does seem to be that their fear is that Britain on the outside could produce cheaper products, better products, higher-quality products.
“And they would prefer that we were therefore fully encapsulated by their regulatory regime.
“If their regulatory regime is so awesome and immaculate they should have nothing to fear but it should be put to the test in an open market.”
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Mr Littlewood’s remarks echo those of former Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe, who last week told Express.co.uk: “I’ve said this before – what they are really worried about is getting a Singapore on their doorstep.
“If you think back to John Major’s time when we had an opt-out from the social chapter, we were getting at that stage 40 percent of all the imports from Japan and the United States.
“The EU has not got a short memory – it will remember exactly that.”
Miss Widdecombe added: “This country is an economic powerhouse.
“We are the world’s 5th-largest economy.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spelled out the EU’s position last month, telling the European Parliament: “We will do all in our power to reach an agreement, we’re ready to be creative.
“But we are not ready to put into question the integrity of the single market, the main safeguard for European prosperity and wealth.
“There will be a clear difference between being a full member of the Union, and being just a valued partner.”